Update: Supreme Court Allows today’s First Ever Nitrogen Execution to Proceed

“Kenny [Smith] is terrified, . . . . “He’s terrified that this thing is going to completely torture him.”

Alabama is set to carry out the first American execution using nitrogen gas on Thursday evening, potentially opening a new frontier in how states execute death row prisoners despite concerns from death penalty opponents about the untested method.

The New York Times reports, “As it stands, prison officials plan to begin the execution around 6 p.m. Central time. Mr. Smith, 58, is one of three men convicted in the 1988 murder of a woman whose husband, a pastor, had recruited them to kill her.

A federal appeals court on Wednesday night voted 2-1 to allow the execution to go forward after the concerns expressed by Mr. Smith’s lawyers. One of the lawyers, Jeffrey H. Horowitz, said that the legal team would appeal that case to the Supreme Court, in what amounts to a potential last-ditch effort to spare his life.

The Supreme Court already declined to intervene in the lawyers’ appeal of a separate case on Wednesday, in which they had argued that trying to execute Mr. Smith a second time amounted to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment, in part because of how harrowing the failed 2022 execution attempt had been.